CONSIDERATION:Rail workers decided against a strike in the wake of Typhoon Meranti, but are not satisfied with their working conditions, a union president said
By Abraham Gerber / Staff reporter
Employees of the Taiwan Railways Administration urge the company to hire more people and provide weekly days off at a news conference at Taipei Railway Station yesterday.
Photo: Liu Hsin-de, Taipei Times
Railway union members camped out overnight inside the central hall of Taipei Railway Station yesterday, calling for the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) to hire more workers and grant staff regular days off.
About 25 Taiwan Railway Union members sat in silent protest for most of the afternoon in a roped-off corner of the hall surrounded by placards and fliers demanding overtime pay and reduced working hours, hosting an evening “party” with singing and speeches before camping out overnight.
The union had previously claimed it would mobilize more than 70 members for the protest, which came after it backed down on threats that all members would “take the holiday off in accordance with the law” during the Mid-Autumn Festival rush, which usually packs railway services.
The union — which was established last month — is one of several representing railway workers, with young employees comprising the vast majority of members.
“After taking into consideration the influence of [Wednesday’s] typhoon and the transportation needs of the Mid-Autumn Festival, our members decided to keep working, but we hope to use this event to show the TRA that we are not satisfied at all, because they have not given us any specific timeline or plan for changes,” union president Wang Jieh (王傑) said, adding that all participants used regular time off.
Last-minute negotiations on Sunday failed to reach a definite conclusion, with the TRA promising a response within a month, union officials said.
“We do not want the current all-year, night-and-day rest cycle without actual days off,” in which staff work from 8am to 8 pm, take 24 hours off and then again work from 8pm to 8am the following day, “and we do not want the situation where it is not clear whether we are workers covered by the Labor Standards Act, or civil servants” who are not covered, he said.
Workers at train stations take 24 hours off between alternating 12-hour night and day shifts, while being denied regular days off, even though they put in eight hours of work every day, he said.
Wang called on the government to hire additional staff while improving working conditions to reduce turnover, including a full additional “day off” after working two shifts, along with four hours of overtime pay for each 12-hour shift.
Workers are paid 1.8 hours of overtime per shift, he said, adding that counting the additional 2.2 hours as overtime would raise monthly salaries for ordinary workers by between NT$5,000 and NT$6,000.
Workers’ basic salaries average between NT$30,000 and slightly more than NT$40,000, he said.
“Even though the TRA has said that they are making up for gaps, what we on the front lines feel is that the pressure is getting greater, and it is becoming more difficult to take days off,” said Huang Chen-tao (黃辰濤), a locomotive engineer.
Training has been shortened by several years as a result of personnel shortages, Huang said.
Most engineers are unable to take their full annual leave, he added